This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Dear Charlotte, which tells the winding story of the triumph and folly of forever trying to better yourself. This letter is from the chapter on "Dealing with Others".
Hi Charlotte. I don't know if it's because of my isolation or what, but I've had some of the most harsh, intensive journal entries lately. I'm staying in a little room at my boss's condo, and it's on this small island half-way between L.A. and San Diego called Balboa Island.1 The place is like a miniature golf course, with little shops, little boats, and even a little windmill. I go on jogs every night at eight, and it takes me about 20 minutes to circumnavigate the whole island. When I return home, that's when I usually tumble down the rabbit hole of obsessive thinking.
This whole summer, my mind has been cluttered with circular introspections about how people treat me. Last weekend, when I was in San Diego, Ira and some friends from high school2 went bowling, but no one bothered to invite me. I was so mad, that I spent an hour on the floor stewing over it, half upset at them, and half upset at myself for being upset. I didn't even want to go in the first place, but I still wanted to be invited. When I saw them a week later, all I could think about was my bitterness, which I'm sure strained things between us even further.
I think there's a silver lining to my isolation, though. It's given me time to reflect on my life and see patterns. Last night, while I was eating by myself at the mall, Whitney Houston's song "The Greatest Love of All" played in the background, and a light bulb went off in my head. All this time, I had been fighting little uphill battles here and there, but never grasping what the true war had been about. Nearly all the self-programming and journaling I had been doing for the past couple years was really just the byproduct of having a low self-esteem and being insecure.
That's it. It all comes down to self-love. As the lyrics of Whitney's song goes, "The greatest love of all, is easy to achieve. Learning to love yourself, is the greatest love of all." I know it sounds cliché, but I believe that if I dedicate myself to loving myself and improving my self-image, then everything will fall into place. It's like we carry a cup inside of us, and if it's low on love, you become bitter and mean. But If it's full, it overflows, and it just makes you a more confident, kinder person.
So this morning, I looked at myself in the mirror, and I just conjured up positive thoughts about myself. Some phrases were canned ones, like, "You are an awesome person." Others were more specific, "You really did a number on that presentation yesterday." After about thirty affirmations, I could feel my inner cup over-flowing. I felt warm all over and my energy levels were through the roof.
When I came into work today, I was beaming and smiling more. We gathered for a meeting, and one of my more grumpier co-workers didn't say "hi" to me, which is his typical behavior, but I didn't flinch at all. I felt confident and good about myself. I didn't wonder if he was singling me out or if I did something to offend him. I just thought to myself, "I'm fine," and I sailed on through.
Out of all the things I've tried, this has got to work. I've never attacked a whole category of self-help head-on like this before. Self-love, self-love, self-love. If this works, then I will have knocked out the biggest problem in my life.3
1 That summer, I worked at a start-up about a hundred miles north of my parent's home.
2 I had just graduated from high school and would be going to Stanford in a month.
3 This particular method, of standing in front of the mirror and thinking positive thoughts, did not last for me. After a couple days, when I tried to form the words in my head, I couldn't. It was like a cat had caught my tongue. It wasn't until a decade later, when I got into cognitive therapy, that I achieved that holy alliance between self-love and reduced social neurosis.